In Tuition-Free Germany, International Students Still Pay a Price

Marienplatz, May 17, 2019, in Munich, Germany. (Photo/Alexandra Rios)

Germany expects to see more international college students apply to its colleges and universities. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s foreign students’ prediction was accomplished three years before the forecast date. The German government has made free education available to international students since 2014. International students represent territories from the Americas to Africa to Asia. In 2016, more than 350,000 international students have studied in German universities, surpassing the 2020 prediction goal.

 Why It’s Newsworthy: The U.S. State Department website states that “young Americans studying abroad experience the world and begin to form networks that will enhance their prospects in the world’s marketplace and their potential as global problem-solvers. They build understanding as unofficial ambassadors for our country, defining American values and debunking stereotypes.” 


The Challenges: Money, Housing

Even though the education is free, international students still need money in general to attend a German university. “You need to find money for education,” Tigarn Rkoian, a twenty-three year-old international student from Russia said.  “If you do not have any have sponsors, and you pay by yourself, you need about 700 euros per month. You need to make a bank account to put this money for one year of education, so it’s about 9,000 euros.”

Rkoian is studying at Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) to earn a master’s in civil engineering. Rkoian is currently job hunting for almost a month now. “I tried to find a job here in English, and it’s impossible,” Rkoian said.

German cities, like Munich, want their employees to have a C1 level in German or higher, according to the German Visa officials. Level C1 corresponds to proficient users of the language. Reaching C1 means you can understand long, demanding texts, speak fluently without expressions and understand implicit meanings.

Even to find one simple job, like cook or waiter, you need to be able to communicate in German in most of the restaurants. i went to many places and heads said, ‘Sorry man, you do not speak German so you cannot work with us,” Rkoian said.

“I know I need to improve it, but there are some situations of life then have no much time and need to find decision today,’” Rkoian said.

Scarce Housing Market for International Students

Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) offers students tips and services to help find accommodations. However, students need to wait around two semesters to find accommodations from these services. “The question is where will you live during those two semesters,” Rkoian said. “It is a big problem.”

“In Munich, especially, it is very hard,” Dionisio Vendrell-Jacinto said. “Here in Munich there is a very high demand for places to live.”

Vendrell-Jacinto, 25, an international student from Mexico is studying at Technische Universitat Munchen (TUM) to earn a master’s in electrical engineering and computer science. Vendrell-Jacinto said he heard of two fraud cases involving housing rentals during his time at the university.

I do not know the right name for this, but you know, you pay somebody. But that a person does not exist, that apartment does not exist. They just take your money,” Vendrell-Jacinto said.

Landlords want to meet in person with renters, so it makes it difficult for international students to find housing when their booking is before their arrival. “I think I wrote about thirty emails, called about ten times, got five answers, and never heard back from the rest,” Rkoian said.

“Many people try to book ahead,” Vendrell-Jacinto said.

The search for housing can be very competitive. “It’s not a hundred percent the landlord will agree,” Rkoian said. “It is possible that several people want to get this room, for example.” 

Life in Munich

Despite issues with spending money, Rkoian says he is very happy with his studies in Munich.

 Do not be sad,” Rkoian said. “Do not be afraid of difficulties. Just try to find other ways.”

Before college, Vendrell-Jacinto studied in a private school in his native country. “Of course, it is a different country, a different culture. You have to come with an open mind,” Vendrell-Jacinto said, adding, “It is up to you to make the most out of your studies here.”

Alexandra Rios is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. 



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